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Somali pirates focus of documentary

West Islanders co-produce

By Ian Howarth

Out of the chaos that is Somalia, the northeast African country that has been mired in civil war and a lack of political leadership since the early 1990s, has come a flourishing industry.

Piracy has become a multimillion dollar business born originally out of the frustration of fishermen worn down by illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping off their once fertile fishing grounds in the Indian Ocean. Piracy has since become a more sophisticated operation, with the use of GPS tracking, satellite phones and the requisite weapons (who knew rocket-propelled grenades could be rented?)

Two transplanted West Islanders — actor/producer Andrew Walker and Heather Phenix — have joined forces with filmmaker and director Thymaya Payne to co-produce the documentary Stolen Seas, which takes an in-depth look at the root causes of piracy and the intrigue of the astronomical ransoms being paid out by shipping companies to free their hijacked ships and crews.

Walker and Phenix, who now call both Toronto and Los Angeles home, have recently become the TV and film arm of the production company Bridge of Hands Entertainment. They hope Stolen Seas is just the beginning of a fruitful partnership that will see them producing films and documentaries with a social justice theme.

Beaconsfield native Walker, 31, has an extensive biography in both TV (Maybe it's Me, Sons of Tucson) and film (Steel Toes, starring Academy Award nominee David Strathairn) and has always had a hankering to produce. Phenix, who has known Walker since their days at Beaconsfield High School, is a Concordia University film grad who worked in Toronto on the CBC show The Border and now hopes to open a new chapter in her career working in the production end of films in LA.

Director Payne has gathered together some remarkable raw footage after spending two years on the ground in Somalia at considerable risk to himself. “He has incredible vision,” said Walker from his L.A. home.

“He’s been working in the trenches of Somalia from 2006 to 2008. He’s seen the desperation of the Somalian people.”

The documentary is careful not to glamorize piracy, Walker added, with an aim to present a more objective look at it. “Stolen Seas will be a look into Somalian piracy that hasn’t been seen before,” Walker said.

Part of the documentary’s focus is the hijacking of the Danish-owned ship SEC Future in 2008 whose rescue played out like a Hollywood thriller. Both Walker and Phenix have put up some of their own money towards the post-production of this film they hope to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

They are using the social media platform Kickstarter.com to raise $15,000 by April 5 to use towards editing, dramatic re-creations and other additions to the documentary.

“We’re about 50 percent of the way to our goal,” said Phenix.

“I’m optimistic we’re going to make it. We have 107 backers so far.”

See the trailer for Stolen Seas and more information on how to support this project at http://kick.st/gX9c3A

 


 
 
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